Family hope inquest will end prison murders

Michael Clegg died while sharing a cell with a violent arsonist, two years after a killing in the same jail

Just one day after Michael Clegg was discharged from a psychiatric hospital, he found himself in Leeds prison. Mr Clegg, 48, a mechanical engineer with no previous criminal record, was remanded in custody for an alleged assault on his wife because no place was available in a suitable probation hostel. The vulnerable father-of-three was shocked but thought he would have to wait only a few days to be reunited with his family. Less than two weeks later, he was dead.

Just after 5am on 9 May 2006, his family answered the door to the Leeds' prison governor flanked by police officers who told them Mr Clegg had been found hanging in his cell. Initially they were told it looked like suicide, despite the fact that Mr Clegg's buttocks were marked with stab wounds and his cellmate's semen. But within days a murder investigation had been launched.

Neil Preece-Smith pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting suicide in February 2007. In passing a 10-year sentence, the judge described him as an "extremely dangerous man" who bullied and humiliated his vulnerable cellmate into committing suicide. The Clegg family has never accepted the suicide verdict.

After a four-year wait, an inquest opens tomorrow amid claims the Prison Service has failed to learn the lessons from previous violent deaths which should have saved Mr Clegg's life.

Preece-Smith, 24, was serving a life sentence for arson with intent to endanger life after setting fire to his probation hostel in Wakefield on 1 January 2006.

A young man with a long criminal record, he posed a high risk to the public, according to a pre-sentencing report by his probation officer, which prison officers should have seen. He had also threatened to hurt Mr Clegg in the days leading up to his death – a fact recorded in his prison notes.

Nevertheless, Mr Clegg was allocated a cell to share with the convicted arsonist. Cell sharing is common because of overcrowding but according to prison rules, remand prisoners should not be forced to share with a convicted prisoner.

If sharing is unavoidable, the prison must undertake and regularly review a Cell Sharing Risk Assessment (CSRA) for each prisoner to ensure the arrangement is safe for both. Mandatory CSRAs were introduced after the murder of Zahid Mubarek, 20, at Feltham Young Offenders Institute by a cellmate in 2000. Since then, several murders and countless assaults have highlighted shortcomings in the way CSRAs are carried out and used by prison staff.

Mr Clegg died two years after Shahid Aziz had been murdered in the same prison. A report by the Prison and Probation Ombudsman into Mr Aziz's murder, published in October 2005, criticised the quality of CSRAs at Leeds. The report recommended urgent action to improve the timing, quality and use of CSRAs, to ensure violent prisoners were not put into cells with others.

Coroner David Hinchcliff, who also sat on the Aziz inquest, will hear evidence from 100 witnesses over the next seven weeks, and must decide whether Leeds prison acted on the Aziz report recommendations when ruling on the cause of death.

Daniel Machover, the Aziz family's solicitor, believes not: "It is extraordinary that this keeps happening again and again because the prison service fails to learn the most urgent lessons."

The murder of Ryan Beaver, 35, in Salford's Forest Bank prison in September 2008 by a cellmate who had previously threatened to assault him, suggests the failings are widespread. A review of CSRAs is under way.

Mr Clegg attended two bail hearings during his 12 days in prison, but no hostel was found for him. Another hearing was due on the day he was found hanging. The next morning his mother received a bogus letter, written by Preece-Smith pretending to be her son. She never recovered from her son's untimely death and died in 2008.

Mr Clegg's younger sister, Sue Winder, 46, said: "To see my mum, at the age of 70, fall to the floor when that governor told us Michael was dead, well, that haunts me more than anything. But even then I knew this wasn't suicide. He would never do that to his kids or our mam; never. And I still believe that.

"The prison let us down, they all did. If something can be learnt from Michael's death which saves one life and just one family going through what we have, then something would have come of it. It has to stop somewhere, and we want to change things."

Philippa Matthews of Howells Solicitors, who represents the Clegg family, said: "The state has an obligation to protect life and also to properly investigate any prison death.

"The investigation must see if lessons can be learned. Michael's family hope that the inquest will provide them with reassurances that systems are in place at Leeds prison to prevent vulnerable prisoners from being placed in double cells with others who could cause them harm."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent